17 June 2010

Honey-Glazed 'Chicken' Enchiladas

Ok. It's been a while. I know. I have no excuses. Well, I do, but none that can explain away over a month of silence. What can I say? I'm just busy! I've been in Arizona for almost a month and a half now, and I've been trying to squeeze as much out of the gorgeous desert summer as I can. I even managed to find an awesome summer job, working as a server/counter girl for an super-cool pizza joint downtown. When I'm not there, I'm camping, swimming, seeing old friends, or cooking... and forgetting to take pictures of it so I can post it. Thing is... the apartment kitchen is a little cramped for all the stunning food photography that I feel a proper blog post is worthy of. But there I go making excuses again. Honestly though, how do those famous food bloggers do it? I feel like they all live in their own perfect world where it's always spring time, there are farmers markets everyday, no one has to work and everyone has endless funds. Maybe I'll get there someday, but for now I'll just have to cope with my minimum wage job, tiny apartment, and elusive free-time.

Anyways, now that all that's out of the way, I have an exciting online food discovery to share with you. It's called "Foodie Fights", and it was started not too long ago by a couple of food blogger rivals. They picked a day on which to "battle", and both went to work on their own culinary creations. I don't have a clue who won the fight, but after that day the two rivals teamed up to create the website FoodieFights.com. On this site foodies from across the globe can come together and battle to prove their own culinary mastery. Every week, the two original bloggers (Dan from The Food in my Beard and Nick from Macheesmo) pick two ingredients, and 6 foodies sign up to spend a weekend creating something amazing that showcases said ingredients. Fun, right? Anyways, for the past few weeks I've been sitting on the sidelines, quietly observing the various bloggers go at it and daydreaming a bit about what I myself might make with each week's ingredients. Just this past week I mustered up the courage to go ahead and sign up for a battle- but don't get too excited just yet, because it turned out the sign-ups had been closed. Ah, well. Next week perhaps.

Despite that minor setback, I decided to go ahead and pretend I was battling anyways. Good practice, right? This week's ingredients are Ancho Chili Peppers and Honey. I've never cooked using those dried up peppers you find in the Mexican section of the grocery store, but hey, that's what foodie fights is about anyways- trying things out of your comfort zone. I thought a while about various things I could make.... Spicy Sopapillas with honey (too simple), Honey BBQ "chicken wings" with spicy creamy dip (too cliche), a sweet and spicy cocktail (not enough oomph), and numerous other things. What I finally decided on was Honey-glazed "chicken" stuffed enchiladas with spicy Ancho Chili sauce. I love being in the southwest and cooking quality mexican food- probably since I spent so many months away from it. And so, I set upon manifesting my idea and crossed my fingers that it would be edible.

These enchiladas ended up taking a LOT of work. Not that any component is too difficult, but I had to do everything around my work schedule- meaning that I ended up making the enchilada sauce at 11:00 pm one night, the honey-glazed chicken in my 2 spare hours before work the next day, and assembling everything at 10:30 pm when I got off that night. Dinner was served at about midnight, but that's become somewhat of a summer routine for Stewart and I. Besides, all the work was definitely worth it. Stewart proclaimed it "one of the best things he'd ever tasted"- in my mind that means a success. If you're up for a little extra work, I definitely recommend you give these enchiladas a try.

Honey-Glazed "Chicken" Stuffed Enchiladas
Sauce Ingredients:
6 Dried Ancho Chili Pods
Approx. 5 cups boiling water
4 cloves minced garlic
1 white onion, chopped
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp Flour
3 cups Vegetable broth
1 Tsp Oregano
1/2 Tsp Cumin
1/3 cup sour cream or soy sour cream
1/2 Tsp Cinnamon
Salt and Pepper to taste

Chicken Ingredients
3 bags Morningstar lightly seasoned Chicken strips
1 1/2 cups honey
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
Salt and Pepper to taste

Other Ingredients
Corn tortillas
1 onion, chopped
Grated cheese to top (I used Medium cheddar, though a combination of jack and cheddar would also be good. Soy Cheese can also be used for a vegan recipe.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the chili pods on a cookie sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let them burn. In my opinion, they smell like spicy molasses. Once you can smell something like this, take them out. I was surprised to find that the heat made the flat, dry pods puff up into big peppers.
2. After they've cooled, cut the peppers in half and remove the stems and half the seeds. The more seeds you leave in, the spicier your sauce will be.

3. Put the pods in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Let them sit for about thirty minutes.
4. Meanwhile, chop up the garlic and onion.
5. Once the chili pods have soaked for thirty minutes, remove them and carefully scrape the pulp away from the skin with a spoon. This step is important, because leaving the skin in the sauce will give it a bitter taste. Some of the pulp will come off easily, while you may have to work on other parts for a while. Don't fret if a bit of the skin gets in, just avoid big chunks. Once you've finished, you will have a messy table, a bowl of dark reddish brown water, and a bowl of pepper mush that looks a bit like this:

6. Now it's time to start cooking. In a large saucepan, saute the garlic and onion in the butter until the onions are clear and tender. Add the flour and stir quickly, forming a bit of a rue. Add the vegetable broth and the chili pulp. Stir, and then add the water the Anchos were soaking in. Return to a boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the sour cream and spices, and stir.
7. Let the sauce cool a bit, and then pour it all into your food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Taste, and season with salt and pepper. The result will be a bright reddish brown sauce that has a fantastic flavor, with the Anchos right in the front. Store the sauce until you're ready to make the "chicken" and assemble the enchiladas.

For the "Chicken":

1. Pour all the "chicken" strips into a bowl and thaw by microwaving for thirty seconds, tossing the strips, and repeating.

2. This next bit is harder than it at first appears. Try and recruit someone- anyone- to help you, or you will find yourself in the situation I wandered into of sitting at the kitchen table for two hours tediously shredding chicken strips by hand. I couldn't find any better way of separating the strips into a "shredded chicken" like consistency, and since there were about twelve million of them, it took forever. I started at 3pm, and by the time I was done I had to rinse off my hands quickly and rush off to be on time for my 5 o clock shift. Anyways, once you've finished, you should have something that looks like this:

(you can see that the sun has sunk in the sky quite a bit and my lighting is off by this time. I'm snapping the pictures thinking, "These f*ckers better be freaking delicious")
3. Now it's time to prepare the glaze. I didn't use exact measurements, more of approximations until I thought it tasted right. Heat the oil, soy sauce, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Stir until they come together a bit.
4. Add the honey and stir until a thin sauce is formed. Let simmer for as long as you like- the longer you simmer, the thicker the end result will be. Also, as it's simmering it makes pretty golden-brown honey bubbles. Just be careful to make sure they don't overflow.

5. Remove from heat and let cool. Don't wait too long though, or the glaze will become too thick to work with. Taste it and season with salt and pepper.
6. Toss the chicken with the glaze until thoroughly coated. At this point I had to go to work, so I stuck the chicken in the fridge. This was a good idea because it let the chicken marinate a bit in the glaze.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Take out the chicken and the sauce. At this point, I chopped up an onion and tossed it with the chicken to give an extra dimension of flavor and texture to the filling.
2. Pour about one cup of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a large glass baking dish to coat.
3. Roll the enchiladas by placing half of the corn tortilla in the dish, while keeping hold of the other half. scoop about 1/3 cup of chicken into the tortilla and roll so that the seam is facing the bottom of the dish.
4. Once you've filled the entire dish with pretty rows of chicken stuffed tortillas, pour the remaining enchilada sauce into the dish until all the enchiladas are completely submerged. Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese.
5. Bake for about 15 minutes, and then crank up the heat to 425 and bake an extra 5-10 minutes until the cheese is bubbly and beginning to turn golden brown in places. Remove, cool, and serve!

Optional Cocktail:
At this apartment, we like to match our ethnic meals with appropriate drinks. A couple weeks ago I saw a Good Eats show where Alton brown creates fresh Margaritas and Bloody Marys. Ever since, I'd been dying to make one. Instead of using the agave nectar that is called for, I decided to use up the remaining honey to incorporate it into the meal in just one more way.

2 limes, halved
2 limes, quartered
1/2 a valencia orange
1.5 ounces honey
1.5 ounces tequila
kosher salt
1/2 ounce tequila
thin slice lime

1. Cut up all your citrus so it's ready.

2. Juice the lime halves and the orange. Pour into a cocktail shaker.
3. Add the honey and lime quarters to the shaker. Muddle for as long as your arms can handle it, or until you think you've gotten all the juice out of the limes.
4. In a flat saucer, pour the 1/2 ounce tequila. In another saucer, spread about 1/4 cup kosher salt evenly. Dip the top of a margarita glass in the tequila, and then in the salt to coat. Garnish with the lime slice
5. pour the 1 1/2 ounces of tequila into the cocktail shaker. Fill with ice, and shake. Strain into the prepared glass.

Even though we didn't eat dinner until after midnight, it was well worth the wait. When everything came together, we had a gorgeous Mexican feast! Not to mention a TON of leftovers. And as is true with most casseroles, I think it tasted even better the next day. Happy cooking, loves!

1 comment:

  1. Looks tasty and I bet a non-vegetarian wouldn't even be able to tell that that's not really chicken!